The Midday Meal

A repository for the various things i consume in the course of daily existence

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Reading: Michael Mandelbaum - The Ideas that Conquered the World

The ideas that conquered the world are democracy, peace and free markets...

I am sure no one will be shocked by that. There has been any number of political and historical commentators claiming the victory of liberal ideals since the fall of the Berlin wall and Fukuyama's "End of History". Mandelbaum looks more at the reasons why this ended up being the case and the features of these three ideas which have linked them, why the presence of one will often lead to the development of another. It is a history of the last two centuries, particularly looking at how that history affected the fallout from the end of the cold war. Once setting this up he looks at the way the forces will develop through the twenty first century.

For the most part his argument is pretty stong and well made, particularly when looking at the global hot spots in the middle east and east asia. The one conclusion that Mandelbaum reached that troubled me slightly was his assertion that the liberal free market democratic ideal was currently without challenge in the world. He is quick to dismiss a number of challenges which come from within the "core" nations, such as environmentalism and the call for fairer trade and working conditions in the third world. Admittedly most of these movements don't challenge the structure of liberal democracy but attempt to work within it. His quick dismissal of their complaints on the grounds that the representatives of the third world countries didn't see the problem the same way struck me as a little lazy.

Having raised that, it is an issue which is on the periphery to the purpose of the book, which is a look at the historical events of the past hundred years and why they led to the unquestioned primacy of free markets, democracy and peace as the means for organisation within and between countries, and the reasons why their ideological challengers could not defeat them.

Thursday, March 10, 2005


I've decided as this is in danger of no longer being a going concern that maybe I need to make some changes... although they may not be sufficient to save it...